Super Typhoon Haiyan killed at least 138 people as it battered the central Philippines, and the death toll may climb to 1,200 with the storm bearing down on Vietnam.
Haiyan, with more powerful wind speeds than that of 2005’s Hurricane Katrina at 171 miles per hour (275 kph), destroyed an airport, cut power and phones lines, and flattened crops. The official death toll is 138, according to the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, while CNN cited the Philippine Red Cross for its estimate of 1,200 potential deaths.
As of 5 p.m. local time yesterday, Haiyan was 475 miles west-northwest of San Jose over the West Philippine Sea and forecast to move toward Vietnam, which plans to evacuate about 883,015 people in 11 provinces and cities, according to a government website posting.
About 100 bodies were found on the streets of Tacloban in Leyte province, where the year’s most powerful cyclone made landfall yesterday, John Andrews, deputy director of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines, said yesterday by phone.
“The report of damage is significant,” Cabinet Secretary Jose Rene Almendras said in a televised briefing. “The report on the casualties is more alarming on the Tacloban side.”
More than 4.2 million Filipinos, or about 4 percent of the population, were affected by Haiyan, mostly in central provinces such as Visayas, before the storm left the country, the government said. The Philippines was the nation most affected by natural disasters in 2012, with more than 2,000 deaths, according to the Brussels-based Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters. A 7.2-magnitude earthquake left 222 dead in Visayas on Oct. 15.
President Benigno Aquino said the government is prepared to use $533 million from various agencies and his discretionary fund for relief and rebuilding of disaster-ravaged towns and provinces.
“Reconstruction will be funded,” Aquino said during a televised briefing in Manila. The government doesn’t yet have the full extent of the devastation, he said.
Tacloban’s airport was destroyed and only the runway remains, Andrews said. “Very many” bodies were scattered on the streets of Tacloban, homes made of wood were wiped out and many roads have been rendered impassable by debris, Lieutenant Jim Alagao, a military spokesman, said by phone.
“It was like standing behind a jet engine,” Manuel Roxas, the Interior and Local Government secretary, told DZMM radio. “The winds were that strong, hurled roofs, wood into the air.”
Police and army troops will be flown into Tacloban from Manila to maintain order amid reports of looting and to help clear roads, Roxas said from Cebu province in the central Philippines, where the government set up a command center.
Storm surges may have caused deaths, Gwen Pang, secretary general of the Philippine Red Cross, said in a phone interview yesterday, adding she received reports that winds were so strong that they could knock down steel structures.
Aquino said there was massive devastation in Tacloban, citing Interior Secretary Roxas, who saw people walking dazed.
“Tacloban isn’t as prepared as the others,” Aquino said, adding he plans to visit the area today.
More than 340,000 people in 36 provinces have been displaced by Haiyan, including those being served in evacuation centers, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council said. More than 3,400 houses were damaged, while four airports remain shut, the agency said.
As of 1:30 p.m. yesterday, Haiyan had left the Philippines and all storm alerts were removed, state weather forecaster Gladys Saludes said in a phone interview.
Philippines recovery efforts
Two C-130 cargo planes have arrived in Tacloban and Almendras said he made sure it was carrying body bags along with goods and medical supplies.
The Philippine National Police sent a contingent of 150 search-and-rescue troops, crime laboratory examiners and communication and electronic service technicians to help with recovery efforts, the PNP said in a statement yesterday.
Globe Telecom Inc., the country’s second-largest telecommunications company, said about 26 percent of its network in the central island group of Visayas had been “adversely affected” by the typhoon.
Robinsons Land Corp. said its mall in Tacloban will stay shut. Malls in Bacolod and Cebu, also in the Visayas, will resume operations, it said in a statement. Gaisano Mall in Tacloban was looted, according to local radio DZMM.
“The last time I saw something of this scale was in the aftermath of the Indian Ocean tsunami,” Sebastian Rhodes Stampa, head of the United Nations Disaster Assessment Coordination Team, said in a statement. “This is destruction on a massive scale. There are cars thrown like tumble weed and the streets are strewn with debris.” Stampa’s team arrived in Tacloban this morning.
High winds have swept about half of the Philippines’ sugar cane-growing areas and a third of its rice-producing land, according to Commodity Weather Group LLC in Bethesda, Maryland.
“Winds were so intense in this system that a lot of the crop is just going to be flattened,” said David Streit, an agricultural meteorologist with CWG.
As much as 35 percent of the rice and sugar in those areas may be damaged, Streit said by telephone on Nov. 8.
Typhoon Haiyan’s total economic impact may reach $14 billion, about $2 billion of which will be insured, according to a report by Jonathan Adams, a senior analyst at Bloomberg Industries, citing Kinetic Analysis Corp.
Aquino said Thursday that Haiyan may cause more damage than Storm Bopha, which killed 1,067 and left 834 missing when that cyclone triggered landslides in Mindanao in 2012. Typhoon Ketsana killed more than 400 when it swamped the country’s capital Manila and parts of Luzon in 2009. Storm Washi killed more than 1,200 people in December 2011. Hurricane Katrina, the worst natural disaster in U.S. history, ravaged its Gulf Coast in 2005, flooding most of New Orleans and leading to more than 1,800 deaths.
Inflation will remain within target this year even as the storm may push the costs of some commodities higher, according to Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Deputy Governor Diwa Guinigundo. The impact on rice prices may be limited because much has been harvested, he said in a mobile-phone message on Friday.